Nineteen-year-olds aren’t expected to do much apart from answer exams and hang out on Carter Road in the evenings. But Buongthangmawi Khawbung was busy setting up her first health spa in the city.The now 21-year-old half-Japanese, half-Manipuri spa director recalls seeing people’s eyeballs pop when they found out how old she was. "My parents were always very supportive, but even they thought I was too young. My business partner was also surprised, but luckily he trusted me because he had seen my work in helping set up spas for other organisations."
Her brand Aeropagus has now expanded to four establishments, a job that keeps Buong so busy, she’s unable to complete her Master’s in massage from the International Institute of Massage, Thailand. But she’s always developing new techniques. “At the spa, we focus mostly on Japanese massages for healing. We have some Chinese therapies and a few that originated in Greece,” she says, adding, “After extensive research on the body and different muscles, I design different techniques which I first test on myself before introducing it at the spa.”
Buong admits she got interested in massage because she suffered from severe sciatica (nerve-related pain) when she was young. “My uncle would give me massages that would calm the pain. When I was 16, I decided to study professional techniques, which can help the body heal using just hands, and not medicines. Now I don’t have any aches or pains anymore.”
Japanese method While she admires Ayurvedic styles of healing, Buong focuses more on Japanese methods. The physically intense shiatsu massage is a very popular, rigorous technique that she admits seems stressful at first. “While the massage is being done, it may be painful. But once it’s over, I promise, you won’t feel pain any longer.”